Strategic Geopolitical Trends – From Spooks to Nanotech

Stop that talk of nanobots, this is getting silly!

The UK Ministry of Defence released its latest ‘Global Strategic Trends – Out to 2040‘ study last month, and it’s a good read (even for non spooks) covering everything from terrorism to to climate change and their impact on geopolitics.

The report identifies four key issues, Globalisation, Climate Change, Global Inequality & Innovation which will dominate the next thirty years. The first three are fairly obvious, but I liked the rather rational approach to innovation which seems to put the military at odds with much of the ‘Cleantech industry.’

Innovation and technology will continue to facilitate change. Energy efficient technologies will become available, although a breakthrough in alternative forms of energy that reduces dependency on hydrocarbons is unlikely. The most significant innovations are likely to involve sensors, electro-optics and materials. Application of nano-technologies, whether through materials or devices, will become pervasive and diverse, particularly in synthetic reproduction, novel power sources, and health care. Improvements in health care, for those who can afford it, are likely to significantly enhance longevity and quality of life.

For those interested in how the military see nanotechnologies, there is a specific mention:

Nanotechnology focuses on manipulating matter at the atomic and molecular scale, generally at less than 100 nanometres in size. At this size, and using other scientific disciplines, the characteristics of matter can be changed. This will create new and unique properties with profound and diverse applications. Advances in nanotechnology, at the interdisciplinary frontier where physics, chemistry and biology meet, will be a key enabler of technological advance, involving: new additives and coatings; materials and sensor development; and medical treatments and heath diagnosis. Products will be smaller and more energy efficient. They will be designed and manufactured with atomic precision and less production waste. Out to 2020, defence applications, in convergence with other disciplines, are likely to be predominantly in sensors, electro-optics and materials, including biologically active agents and surface- engineered materials. Additionally, integrated nano-devices will lead to the emergence of small, swarmed and autonomous systems. The application of nanotechnologies, whether through materials or devices, will become pervasive and diverse, particularly in manufacturing (strong lightweight materials for transportation applications), synthetic reproduction, novel power (battery) sources and health care (targeted drug delivery and augmented medical treatments).

Much of it is sensible, but the term ‘synthetic reproduction’ pops up a few times, perhaps a hangover from the old nanobot days when planners envisaged hordes of nanobots devouring enemy tanks?

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